While traveling in Nicaragua in 2015, our president Brad Nahill went souvenir shopping with his daughter in the coastal town of San Juan del Sur. Avoiding shops and vendors that sold these products was so challenging that we decided to launch Too Rare To Wear, a campaign that would work with the travel industry to try to reduce the demand for these products wherever they are found around the world.
Since our launch in late 2016, Too Rare To Wear has:
· Completed Endangered Souvenirs, the first regional survey of turtleshell sales in Latin America and the Caribbean in more than 15 years. We found more than 200 shops and vendors selling more than 10,000 products in 8 countries. This information is key to identifying the most important places to invest resources, inform enforcement authorities, and establish a baseline to be able to monitor the success of the project;
· Built a coalition of more than 80 conservation and tourism organizations working to end the demand for turtleshell products. The coalition includes more than 40 tourism companies, which include both leading adventure travel operators in the US as well as key local operators in Latin America. The coalition also includes important conservation partners such as the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, WildAid, the Humane Society International, and many regional and local organizations;
· Reached millions of people with our undercover video footage. We put together a video on turtleshell products with popular website The Dodo that reached more than 8 million people around the world. We also did a how-to video on recognizing turtleshell with Travel For Wildlife that reached tens of people through social media;
· Created a variety of outreach materials on the turtleshell issue including the first simple guide for recognizing turtleshell, an infographic, and a photo library available for free use for the media and outreach. Our materials have been included in the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance tourism toolkit, used by major tourism companies and associations including airlines and cruise lines and have been translated into Spanish, German, and French;
· Working with local partners in Nicaragua and Colombia to launch campaigns to work with local officials and tourism businesses to educate travelers about this issue;
· Created a “pledge to avoid turtleshell” which has been signed by more than 6,500 people from roughly 100 countries. These committed people are crucial to expanding the reach of our campaign. We have also built a social media network of about 5,000 people and launched a central website that has had more than 15,000 visitors to date.
We are excited to announce that, with the support of a number of great sponsors including the Bently Foundation, Pacsafe, Lush Cosmetics, the Intrepid Foundation, and others, this year we will be dramatically expanding Too Rare To Wear.
Our plans for the next year include:
- Expanding the campaign to Asia, where large shipments of these products have been found in China, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, and elsewhere;
- Launching a new effort to engage divers and the dive industry on this issue. Few travelers have a bigger stake in healthy coral reefs than divers and these products can be found in most places that have coral reefs around the world;
- A new program called "Turtle-Safe Souvenir Shops" that will encourage stores to stop selling these products and give travelers places to look for when traveling to spots where these products are sold;
- Working with Fundacion Tortugas del Mar in Colombia to expand their efforts to address this issue in Cartagena and other destinations, including the coastal communities of Tolu and Coveñas;
- Bringing together a coalition of conservation groups and tourism companies in Nicaragua to develop a national strategy to reduce the sale of turtleshell products in the country.
- A new ad campaign that will help bring awareness to this issue by helping people connect the animal in the water with the products in the store with.
We hope you will join us for this exciting next stage of Too Rare To Wear!